Bonum Certa Men Certa

Management by Intimidation Has Caused Deaths at the European Patent Office (EPO)

Management by Intimidation



Summary: An accurate diagnosis of the conditions created at the European Patent Office (EPO) by Benoît Battistelli and his cronies, who have essentially hijacked the Organisation -- not just the Office -- then attacked every 'enemy', either real or perceived

THE previous article about Professor Alain Pompidou (former EPO President who, as far as we know, EPO staff at the time did not hate). Nobody is perfect, but Professor Pompidou was at least regarded not as a bully. People in circles close to the EPO generally told us positive things about him. Pompidou did complain about productivity or laziness (IP Kat covered it at one point). When Alison Brimelow stepped down IP Kat said that "Brimelow is reported to be unhappy at the quantity of politics that has invaded her senior administrative job description [and] calls for the clarification, extension and abolition of the computer program "as such" exception to patentability."



We covered all this (at the time) and at no point did we hear about suicides, for instance. Staff did occasionally protest (we covered that and posted photos), but back then there was no aggressive crackdown on staff and their representatives. When Battistelli took over he introduced a de-motivational career path, which was explained also in this presentation [PDF]. But what pushed people to depression and sometimes even suicide (not to mention brain drain due to departures and inability to attract/recruit talent) was explained in the following document from 3 years ago:

Zentraler Vorstand . Central Executive Committee . Bureau Central

03.11.2014 sc14260cp – 0.2.1/4.1

Management by FEAR



Dear colleagues,

Some of you may still remember a power-point presentation from a management meeting years ago that suggested “fear, isolation and punishment” as a method for dealing with “under-performers. The staff representation requested the (then) President to distance herself from such statements. She never did and neither did Mr Battistelli, when asked.

There are various names for such management methods. “Management by intimidation” (“MBI”) is one of them. As an annex, we have copied list of warning signs for MBI. We invite you to do the test and see which apply to our organization.

The article from which the list was copied1 states that MBI practices lead to a demotivated work-force and are costly for an organization. In the EPO the consequences of MBI might be less quickly visible because the quality of the work done (the most obvious part to suffer) is not properly measured, and our income derives in part from the work done in the past (renewal fees). Still: the long-term impact will be negative on the organisation and the costs in terms of human suffering and reputation will be huge.

We therefore call on the individual responsibility of each staff member and each manager to resist the current development. For managers this means in particular not exposing staff under their responsibility to the isolation2 and punishment3 that is part of the Office’s new way of dealing with “challenging people4”.

SUEPO Central

_______________ 1 Impact of Management by Intimidation on Human Capital: Is It Destroying Your Organization? http://www.acua.org/ACUA_Resources/Auditor/Summer2006.pdf, pages 5-10 2 e.g. suspension 3 usually dismissal. 4 “DG1 Teaming Up: Challenging People”, A. Bailas, Yann Chabod http://babylon/projects/babylon/acedg1.nsf/0/268766D76E00FFB8C1257C8200471D56/$FILE/Presentation_MM14_Challenging%20People.ppt




Warning Signs of MBI (Management by Intimidation)



After years of consulting and management reviews, the authors discovered patterns of behavior. Do you see these in your organization?

1. Use of Threats: MBI practitioners threaten or intimidate people to perform, not inspire people to do their best. Letters of warning, informal threats of dismissal and informal requests to resign are some of the popular tactics used by MBI practitioners in organizations. Show of unchecked power is the basis for their operating philosophy.

2. Ineffective Oversight Body: Members of the oversight body (e.g., board of directors) are carefully screened and hand-picked. The intent is to ensure that members, who do not habitually question the activities of management, are selected and retained. Such an ineffective oversight body gives MBI practitioners a carte blanche to act administratively with unchecked powers. The body views auditors as necessary evils, rather than partners who assist its members in discharging their oversight responsibilities. The need to avoid micro-management is used as an excuse for this kind of hand-off oversight philosophy.

3. Censored Communications: MBI practitioners do not like employees to communicate openly and frankly about their views on organizational matters. They manipulate communication channels to ensure that only positive things are said and written about the organizations to external parties. Employees who express unfavorable opinions about the working conditions are routinely reprimanded by superiors who subscribe to the MBI philosophy. Commitment to truth is nonexistent. Board members, external auditors, internal auditors, and regulators receive communications censored or sanitized by MBI practitioners to conceal the real organizational climate and culture.

4. Self-Centeredness: MBI practitioners are self-centered leaders. They make decisions that are usually best for them, their favorite subordinates, their friends and their business partners. Personal agendas are disguised as organizational agendas.

5. Unchallenged Authority: MBI practitioners do not like their authority challenged or questioned by anyone. They have no compunction whatsoever in eliminating and neutralizing people who habitually challenge their authority.

6. Lack of Accountability: MBI practitioners are the least accountable people in organizations. They are quick to take credit for successful initiatives and equally quick to apportion blame on others for organizational failures. They are meticulous in building cases – real or imagined – against dispensable employees or scapegoats. MBI practitioners last long in organizations mainly because the culture of accountability is nonexistent.

7. Lack of Transparency: MBI practices are not transparent to people who are not directly and indirectly impacted by such practices. We either experience or learn about them from colleagues who were affected by the practices. MBI practitioners are too concerned about leaving audit trails that they have adopted the practice of not documenting their activities as much as possible and tacitly asking their subordinates to do the same.

8. Questionable Hiring Practices: MBI practitioners tend to ignore good personnel policies and resort to cronyism and nepotism in their hiring decisions. Covert tactics are used to ensure that friends and relatives are given preferential considerations. Ruse interviews are occasionally conducted just to satisfy legal requirements.




9. Lack of Diversity: MBI practitioners preach but do not practice diversity. They develop policies, procedures and plans that extol the virtues of diversity. They organize events intended to create the illusion that their organizations believe in diversity. A closer look will reveal that the people they surround themselves with in key leadership positions are not diverse. Lucrative positions, contracts and bonuses are typically awarded to people who look, think and act like them.

10. Double Standards: Activities that are acceptable to MBI practitioners are not necessarily acceptable to ordinary employees. Double standards are consistently applied in organizations. It is acceptable for MBI practitioners to circumvent rules if it suits their whims, but employees who commit the same type acts are involuntarily terminated.

11. Disdain for Independent Reviewers: MBI practitioners treat internal auditors, external auditors and other independent reviewers with open disdain. They do not want anyone to review and criticize their activities nor the activities of their "trusted" employees. They operate under the illusion that their actions are beyond reproach and not subject to audit. MBI practitioners prefer to have "other people" audited or investigated so that they can get the ammunition to eliminate certain people and show that certain conducts cannot be tolerated. The philosophy of "trust but verify" is foreign to MBI practitioners.

12. Management Myopia: MBI practitioners are inherently reactive managers. They like status quo. They dislike people who rock the boat or think outside the box. They rarely communicate their expectations to employees in a clear, unambiguous manner. They conduct periodic performance evaluations based on their moods at a particular time. Disliked employees are harshly criticized and "trusted" employees are richly rewarded. MBI practitioners manage to survive for as long as possible to aggrandize themselves – not to ensure the long-term health of their organizations.

13. Bliss in Feigned Ignorance: MBI practitioners find bliss in feigned ignorance. The less they know about bad things in their organization, the better for them. That is why they harbor visceral hatred for whistleblowers or employees they perceive as "bad news" messengers. They work hard to erect corporate buffers that will deter unfavorable news from reaching their attention. When confronted by the reality of things in their organizations, they are quick to use the standard excuse of "I didn't know" or "I was not aware" of the problems and their associated risks.


It's interesting just to what degree the above describes the EPO under Battistelli. Almost every single point is an accurate description of today's EPO. It's almost as though the entire article was composed regarding or based on the EPO.

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